This year at extraordinarychurch.ca our theme for our entire year is strategy. It is my prayer that everything that we do emanates from a place of deliberate purpose and diligent thoughtfulness.
If our families are going to thrive, we must be remarkably intentional, as extraordinary things rarely happen accidentally. None of us intentionally set out to fail in the most important relationships.
Think about it for a moment. No one is intentionally undermining their marriage so it will fail. It is absurd to think that someone has purposed to sabotage their relationship with their children. However, few families have a strategic plan for strengthening their relationship with their spouse or raising their children. You’re familiar with the adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a true principle that applies to every facet of our lives.
Truthfully, I was never taught the importance of developing a strategic plan for my marriage and family. I thought I would figure it out, but I have had to learn many things the hard way. This is what has given birth to our recent Midweek Bible Connection series, “An Extraordinary Family.” I want to share thoughts with you that I learned throughout the years. Some things I have learned the hard way, some from Sarah, and some from other families. Prayerfully, some of these things will help you.
First, pray. The first thing Paul admonished Timothy to do is to pray. Pray that the Lord will download wisdom and understanding into your spirit so that you may have a heart and establish practices to position them for Godly success.
Secondly, establish margin for the family. As you know, every Monday is a family night at extraordinarychurch.ca. If Monday doesn’t work for you, pick another evening where you can focus on one another without distractions.
Third, clarify your family values. What is important to you? For us, it is distilled into a handful of things.
- Jesus Christ.
- Career / Academics
Take some time to clarify your values and what they mean to you. This could be a great family discussion depending upon the age of your children. It is undoubtedly a critical conversation amongst married couples.
Lastly, pick one achievable activity or habit at a time. You will not build an extraordinary family overnight. It will happen by consistently performing healthy family habits one day at a time. By the way, don’t be discouraged if these things feel unnatural in the beginning. Some growth happens slowly, but it is growth nonetheless.
Here’s to building an extraordinary family!
Jesus had a lot to say about worry.
He came to an unstable and unpredictable world. He lived in an agricultural society where one summer’s drought could wipe out crops for the winter. He hung out with fishermen, who might fish all night long and catch nothing to sell or bring home to family. And Jesus knew the human heart and the temptations presented by the cares of this life. Matthew records some excellent instruction that Jesus gave them, and I wanted to share a few of them with you.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NKJV)
First, Jesus says God gave us our human life and our bodies without us even asking. Human life and our physical bodies are incredibly valuable. Our life is much more valuable than the food we put on the table; our body far more valuable than the shirt we put on. If God gave us life, which is so very valuable, will He not provide us with food, which is of far lesser value? If God gave us these bodies which are fearfully and wonderfully made, will He not give us clothes to cover them? And even further, if God has given us eternal life, will He not provide for our temporal life?
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)
This passage reminds us that God faithfully provides for animals. Birds don’t sow or reap or store their food in barns—and they don’t fret about whether they’ll have enough for tomorrow or to get through the winter. Yet He feeds them. And Jesus tells us that humans, the crown of God’s creation, the only creatures made in God’s image, are of much more value than birds. If God provides for birds, then surely He’ll provide for those He created in his own image. Furthermore, will not God especially provide for those He bought with His own blood?
27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:27 NKJV)
Worry does absolutely no good. It won’t bring in money, food, or clothing. Worry only has negative results: it chokes the word of God and distracts us from God. It is unbelief, the opposite of faith. And it leads to more fear and anxiety. And the different scenarios we play out in our minds can’t prevent a single thing from happening. And besides that, most of the things we spend so much time fretting about won’t happen anyway.
Here’s what I want you to come away with.
Your life and body are far more valuable than any food you eat or the clothing you wear. If God gave you life and fearfully created your body, He’ll provide food for that life and covering for that body.
God provides for birds who don’t know enough to plant, reap, and store up for winter. Humans created in God’s image are far more valuable than birds, so He will undoubtedly provide for us.
Worry can’t do a thing. It won’t bring in a penny. It can’t put a crust of bread on the table or add 5 minutes to our lives.
So don’t worry, trust your heavenly Father who cares for you. He’s a Good Good Father. (By the way, if you haven’t heard this song before, take a listen below. You’ll love it!)
Those who know me well understand that I am naturally an introvert and have developed an aptitude to interact beyond my comfort level. However, new interactions can still be awkward for me. I hope that this isn’t obvious through my body language or words. If that’s been the case with anyone reading this post, I am sorry.
With that being said, I am an avid lifelong learner and believe in drawing and growing from every individual and experience that I have. Recently, I was directing a video for Florida North American Missions and was with church planters, Anthony and Jessica Marquez. I marveled at how Pastor Antonio engaged with complete strangers, and how it opened doors for meaningful connection. One of two things happened that day, as I stood salivating for that prowess and ability to interact with strangers. Pastor Marquez either recognized the astonished look on my face in that quaint espresso and crepe cafe or heard my heartbeat for that ability. Because after his interaction he looked at me said five words I will never forget. “I never meet a stranger.”
Since then, I have embraced every interaction as a Divine appointment, knowing that my steps are ordered by Him. The mantra that rages and drives me to connect with all people (literally), from all walks of life, in this foreign land are those convicting and inspiring words, “I never meet a stranger.”
Why am I sharing this with you? In the past, people have inquired as to who my mentors were. For many years, I wasn’t able to cite a specific individual and allowed that to create an imagined void in my ministerial life. I felt pressure to seek out people I admired with the intent of gaining a mentor. Yes, I have a Pastor (as I believe all pastors should) and I have some elders that have, and continue, to significantly shape my life. However, I don’t think that you have to have a specific “life coach.” When in actuality, I believe God will use your past and present circumstances as well as a myriad of people to deposit things into your life in which the whole of your existence may hang. These people, may or may not quickly fade out of your life.
So much can happen in a conversation, an embrace, a listening ear, etc. I encourage you to stop seeking a “mentoring ideal” and drink deep from the experiences, people, and opportunities God has set before you this day.
Here are three things I would like for you to consider.
– Get over yourself. Humility is key. Once you get over yourself, you will begin to see the many mentors that are right in front you, as opposed to the utopian mentor you’re seeking.
– Keep learning. Commit to being a lifelong learner. This positions you to live in the rhythm of the many teachers God will give you (circumstances, experiences, people, etc.)
– Enjoy the journey. Mentorship, in its myriad of forms, is an experience and not a destination.
Thank you, Pastor Antonio Marquez, for an unforgettable mentoring moment.
How about you? How has the mentorship journey looked for you?
It was 1984 and my parents decided that they would rent an RV and explore America with their kids. Tough to fathom with today’s prices of gasoline, huh? I was along for the ride and had very little control of where we went. Honestly, at that age, I was consumed with the fact that I could play Atari from state-to-state. Even bathroom breaks couldn’t stop or thwart our progress because we had a house on wheels! Life was great!
Where were we going? Well, I knew that we were going to Los Angeles. Disneyland, Universal Studious, Sea World and the city where Michael Jackson lived. SOLD! I was ready to go! I was told I may even see “The A-Team”, television show being recorded. Are you kidding me? Life couldn’t get any better, at least not for this 7-year-old.
All of these adventures and experiences came to pass, and I remember with vivid clarity those incredible moments. Yet, there are other memories that have stuck with me and contributed significantly to the person I am today.
I remember being overwhelmed as I peered through the glass of the helicopter trying to sit still and take in the Grand Canyon. From the air, the Grand Canyon is more than just a sight to see. It really is a life changing experience. Mount Rushmore is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of history today and in particular Abraham Lincoln.
My father was adamant about exposing all of us to so many different things at a young age. At the tender age of eight, I had already been to every state in this country with the exception of Alaska and Maine. During this amazing journey, I found myself being exposed to the Indian reservations of the Cherokee, the rolling rural hills of Tennessee to the desert lands of Nevada.
I credit my ability to connect with all people from all walks of life to recurring experiences like this that my father instilled in all of us. If we hadn’t tried it, we were going to! Especially if it was food.
In my estimation, two demographic trends that will see Revival in the twenty-first-century church is first, the urban community and secondly the diversifying of the local church. Leaders of the church must face both of these realities; continuing urbanization and rapid ethnic diversification. A September 18, 2000, Newsweek analysis states, “We are now living in an Age of Color in which the nuances of brown and yellow and red are as important… [as] the ancient divisions of black and white.” Multiculturalism in America is now a well-established fact.
Understanding this apparent truth, that was solidified by the monumentally gargantuan historic election of our current president (President Obama), the church must be actively engaged and in a tireless pursuit to expose our local church communities to diversity.
If pressed, I think many American churches would say they are open to all people and groups. Yet, the reality is that most congregations are doing nothing to intentionally expose themselves to those who are not like them. So, I am encouraging and humbly submitting that we all take my father’s advice. How will we know if we like it or don’t like it until we have tried it? Even if we didn’t like it 10 years ago it is funny how our pallets can change.
A multi-cultural church is one that recognizes, utilizes, and celebrates the racial, cultural, generational, gender, and other diversity represented in the congregation and community. I know this is bold instruction but I am asking that you read that statement one more time and give it serious thought. Our local universities, schools, local governments, small and large employers, and even families have mandates that compel diversity. The church has long since had a mandate from the word of God. God is no respecter of persons, neither is God’s church.
Even with 21st-century globalization, the church should be the world’s beacon of diversity. It is the only ecosystem where regardless of social, economic, racial, cultural, and generational diversities PEOPLE are received, loved and employed. It is in fertile environments such as the diverse church where the love of God can thrive and accelerate the church’s influence in our local communities.
In every organization, the leadership is the lid. Our church communities will reflect our leadership in our spiritual dispositions, diversities, and behavioral demeanors. That is why it is imperative that our church leadership must reflect diversity!
Our church worship services must demonstrate this diversity in language, music, art form (any form of creative self-expression that you allow in your local church), and interaction.
Today’s multi-cultural church demonstrates the following points below and I believe a mono-cultural church striving to become a multi-cultural church, must aggressively pursue the following:
- identifies itself publicly as multi-cultural
- possesses a shared vision of intentionally being multi-cultural
- reflects the community
- recognizes uniqueness and gifts of the different cultures in it
- includes those populations in:
- volunteer staff
- ministries and programs
This century and season of the church is a golden opportunity era for urban and ethnic harvesting. Which will strengthen our local church communities, expose our people and in turn, advance the kingdom of God!
It’s been said that people judge you by the words you use, and this is true. Some of my readers may not agree with this statement, however, if you do, then you understand the importance of choosing your words with prudence.
Words have power!
Words shape our worlds!
Words shape our behaviors!
The words we use every day shape our realities, whether we realize it or not. The words we use to express ourselves can make a powerful impression on the lives of people around us, whether they occur in a polite conversation at Starbucks, or a more spiritual exchange while you’re ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Words have the power to impel nations to war, peace, and alliances. The fact of the matter is, the words we choose can do the same for us in relationships. Our words can create war, peace, and forge lifelong alliances. The impact of what we say, and how it is delivered, can literally have eternal repercussions.
Growing up in the Thompson household as a child, we were greatly encouraged to regard our words carefully and avoid one word in particular at all costs.
Do you know what that word is?
If I, or one of my siblings, ever said “can’t”, we were quickly rebuffed with, “Can’t isn’t in the Thompson dictionary.”
How often do we utter the words “I can’t?”
• I can’t be a missionary.
• I can’t be a business owner.
• I can’t be a teacher.
• I can’t be an author.
• I can’t be a straight ‘A’ student.
• I can’t lose weight.
• I can’t forgive.
• I can’t move forward.
• I can’t give.
• I can’t love again.
• I can’t reconcile.
• I can’t repent.
The list goes on and on!
This word has become so common and accepted that we have completely missed the major problem with such a declaration. When we declare that we are not able – we are. In essence, declaring that the Mighty God who empowers us is also not able.
Do you realize once you make such a declaration, you are correct? If you SAY you can’t do it – you are correct!
Today, I encourage you to stop limiting yourself. More importantly, stop limiting God!
You can, because He can! God is able!
Because God is able, we are able!
Today, throw the “can’t” out of your vocabulary and begin to replace it with the truth and promises of the matchless, undefeated Word of God!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
Planning an event can be very overwhelming. The timeline, the details, the cost, marketing strategies, location… this is just the beginning. Often times the stress of making the event happen can lead you to a place in which you ask yourself, “What am I even doing?”
I, too, have been stressed out before and asked myself that same question.
However, planning a successful event does NOT have to be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to stress you out, robbing you of the joy that serving others can bring.
Over the past 20 years of planning all types of events, in diverse sizes, and for various demographics, I have picked up a few pointers that I’d like to share to encourage you.
1. Determine The “Why”
Are you having this event to inspire and challenge? To see others come to a place of repentance and relationship with Jesus Christ? To equip leaders to better effectively serve? To promote an idea or project? To garner support from volunteers?
Determining the “Why” will instantly streamline your focus and point you on the path to having a well thought out, well-planned event. This is the absolute first step.
2. Get Started Early.
One mistake people make when planning, is underestimating the amount of time they need to bring everything together. Keep in mind that the prep time needed will vary depending upon the context of the particular event. The earlier you start – the less stress you and others will feel. Plus, more time gives you ample opportunity to vet your ideas and make changes without missing a beat.
3. Think Like Them.
Who is “Them”? It could be your audience, sponsors, speakers, security team, caterers, the corporate community, etc. In every phase of your planning, make sure that you are thinking about “others”. The objective is to remove all other distractions so that your partners can focus on their task(s) effectively; and so your audience doesn’t have to climb over obstacles to benefit from your event.
4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Let me say it like this… If you think you’ve over communicated, you’re probably halfway there to get your point across. Therefore, communicate clearly and often with both your team and your attendees.
5. What Is The Call-To-Action?
In other words, what do you want your attendees to do with what you’ve presented.
Remember, the win is not getting them TO the event. The win is getting to do something with the information you’ve presented to them AFTER the event. The proper win is what makes your event a healthy event.
6. Enjoy the journey.
This is critical, because it allows you to drink deep from the moments that bring together an experience that is going to accomplish something special. Trust me, you want your event to be born and nurtured from a joyful attitude, as opposed to one that is depleted, stressed, and burned out. Everyone will enjoy themselves when it is evident that you have enjoyed yourself.